Invincibility

Every time I see Dr. A.C., my vitals (i.e., weight, blood pressure, temperature, pulse and oxygen level) are measured by Tanya. Tanya is an outspoken middle-aged black woman and mother of two, who likes to wear scrubs printed with different cartoon characters. Like beacons of cheer and light in a place that can be so grim, her scrubs have always entertained me as I expectantly wait to see what cartoon character it will be this time. We talk about cartoons, our kids, our vacations and sometimes we gossip about the staff and even Dr. A.C., because, as I’ve said before, I’m nosey. Such conversations with the various people I encounter at the NYU Cancer Center, from Tanya, to the receptionists, to the nurses, to Dr. A.C. himself, lift my spirits somehow; they make me feel like these people care about me and I about them, like they don’t view me as just a cancer patient, but a vital, involved, invested and interested member of the human race who is more than her cancer. I think most would be surprised at how much I laugh in the cancer center, in this place with these people that remind me forcibly that I have a disease that will inevitably kill me, at how genuinely happy I am to see these familiar faces. Ironic, isn’t it?

It was during one of these conversations with Tanya that I asked casually, “So, you must see really sick people here.” Of course, I had noticed in my frequent stints in the waiting room that I was invariably one of the youngest people there, that I indeed, despite my diagnosis and prognosis, looked the healthiest. More

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Stability

My silence usually means that I’ve been busy living, not that something horrible is going on. So thanks for the notes of concern. I’m sure there will be a time when I will be so sick, I won’t be able to let you all know what’s going on, but that time has not yet arrived.

Rather, with the advent of spring, Josh and I and the girls have filled the weekends with trips and adventures – my time is too limited to sit around and do nothing, or even worse, obsess about cancer. Josh and I went to Phoenix without the children for a retreat (a work thing) where we paddled down the river and I got a massage while Josh attended meetings – it was fine, but a far cry from Hawaii. This past weekend we went up to the Catskills – think Dirty Dancing – and stayed at a friend’s lakefront house, where we all went to the kind of farm where the animals roam free and the children got to run into a hen house and snatch the newly laid eggs. I held a sheep for the first, and I daresay the last, time in my life, touched also for the first time the horns of cows and goats (who incidentally had a strange propensity to nuzzle Josh’s butt and other nether region), and rubbed a turkey’s head (weird feeling!). I kayaked on the lake (which I was told two bald eagles call home) under a glorious blue sky. Did you know I love kayaking? I kayaked in the San Juan Islands in Washington State for a week years ago, paddling for six to eight hours a day as we went from island to island, and then camped at night under the stars. I’ve kayaked along the shores of Antarctica in the glassiest waters. I almost never can see the bird or tree or whatever everyone else is ooh-ing and aah-ing about because I generally can’t see squat, but that doesn’t bother me when I kayak. Except for the time I kayaked in the mighty Hudson River right here in New York City, where I was terrified of being run over by the onslaught of ships (yikes! And thanks to my 6’2” friend and former competitive rower, Eric, for saving me!), I find that the soothing repetitiveness of stroking the water, the cleansing power of physical activity, the healing sensation of gliding, all of it calms my soul in a way that nothing else can. I’ve been trying to live the Lessons From Hawaii, trying to savor the present, trying not to think about the future too much, which means that I’ve stepped away significantly from the cancer community and have minimized the research. I cook (because I love cooking) and sit in on Mia’s violin lessons (because the Chinese Tiger Mom in me is roaring to come out!) and engage in fierce battles with Isabelle over pretty much everything it feels like these days (because I love her without end, as I tell her). For now, this balance between the cancer world and the non-cancer world makes me happy, and that’s all I really want.  More